Chapter 15: Experiencing the Happy Dreams the Holy Spirit Brings

An entry that says diversity is good:  “Nobody is any more ‘special’ than another.”  What are the values that people have which reflect different choices and are just as good as my choices?”

When we are doing the wrong kinds of things, or (more aptly) not enough of the “right” things—the things truly meant for our doing—we sometimes think our existence needs justifying.  So we try, at first, doing more and more of the same.  But, finally reaching an impasse, we learn that it is the way we are spending our life that is at fault.  We take a look at what we really want to do (i.e., the true pathway is found in our real will), and take the first faltering steps toward accomplishing the right “new goals,” and peace reigns again.  We realize that maybe we need to do some different kinds of things—not “more,” but “what.”  And finding peace may be the whole answer.

Even love (with a little “l”) is not enough. Karen Goldman says, “If we were to find our truest loves and define ourselves by them, we would not find Peace. . . Peace lives beyond the point of earthly happiness.  It is the very fabric of the great Beyond that exists within us all.”  In short, we need a pathway that has a heart.  What pathway is that except those things done in peace?

My great-grandmother didn’t need to understand psychologically why it is wrong to attack others.  She just kept on loving, and others learned from her example.  But there was more rebellion in me.  If I were attacked, I felt justified in attacking back—a state of mind that made me ripe for the psychology of A Course in Miracles.

An attack is always distress based on error.  An interpretation that leads easily to forgiving the illusory bad dream that one is witnessing.  A sane interpretation, leading to sane behavior–finally.

A very wise, though not well-educated, woman once told me, “We have to learn to see Christ in everyone.”

An instructive day could be had by anyone who imagined that Christ was merging with the various personalities that she met.  Even an impossibly cranky person could be seen as Jesus having a bad day.  Would we not quickly forgive, knowing that this person truly in deepest heart means us well?

If I have had a very busy (“busy” equals stressful) day, I am likely to awaken that night with a coward’s heart.  We experience God in quietness—not frantic activity.  And so the fears come back, drowning out the love, when we have followed the way of the world too closely.

There is a longing for Hestia in me.  Hestia was the Greek goddess of the home and hearth, the one who felt centered in the inner rather than the outer, the now rather than the past or future.

What does “home” represent to me?  I’ve identified several aspects:  safety, refuge from the world; the warmth of love and companionship; being taken care of (whether by myself, David, or the safety of the environment).  A large indefinable component is a sense of unconditional love, i.e., being loved regardless of achievement in the world.  It is the same safety that I felt in my grand-parents’ home as a child.

I never had any schoolwork to do there (often being on vacation or celebrating a holiday), so the impetus to make good grades could be forgotten for awhile.  It has been hard for me to realize that salvation is not something you do, so deep does the impetus to achieve reside in me.  Hence the desire for Hestia, at home with one’s center, where God Himself resides—where no earthly de-mands are made upon me and I can live in the eternal present.

On wanting God alone or, conversely, wanting things of the material world:  “As I read A Course in Miracles, I see that wanting a husband and home and profession are things that the world offered that I wanted.”  And I see these wonderful blessings that have come my way as part of the happy dreams that the Holy Spirit is able to provide when we are ready to walk more closely with Him.
Yet the Course also says, “The world I see holds nothing that I want.”  It is the intangibles made possible in and through material blessings that I want and feel I have a right to have.  It is not the materialism per se that beckons me.

Will this truth about my inner motivation be what saves me from finding security in the things of the world—saves me to find security in God alone?

There is a call to art and joy in us that won’t be stilled.  In college, I remember hearing Rubenstein in one of his last piano concerts.  While sitting there in the balcony, utterly enthralled, I decided, “This was what I was born to do!”  Hearing the best classical music played by a virtuoso is art at its best, but it was the joy instilled by the experience that brought on my internal remark.

In looking back to the time when I was in my first job, I thought I had found in my private wonderings a greater purpose worth sacrificing happiness.  But the central myth was all a mirage.

Like everybody else, maybe I really did have a “greater purpose,” but it would have been better carried out if I had never lost sight of my happiness.

Then, though, I remember being quite judgmental about a student who professed (unabashedly) to seek happiness as her greatest good.  Maybe the problem is that we simply, in our madness, don’t know how to seek in the right places and in the right ways.

In the midst of everyday life, that tap on one’s shoulder signifying happiness always comes from the Holy Spirit.

Blaming another for one’s unhappiness is a dead end street.  Saints have remained serene under the most adverse conditions.  It is what is within a person that ultimately determines one’s state of mind.

The Course unabashedly counsels that happiness, being that which we all seek anyway, is worth seeking as an end in itself.  If this is true, why does seeking “happiness” as a veritable good seem fraudulent to me?  Is it because many people invariably look for pleasure instead (and usually in all the wrong places)?  If more of us found happiness in the intangibles of the Spirit, wouldn’t happiness seem worthwhile after all and therefore valuable to be pursued for its own sake?

Yet happiness does seem to be elicited as a byproduct of right living and right thinking (indeed, this too is a premise of the Course).  It is true that students of the Course (like everyone else) frequently find happiness elusive and just waiting over the next hill for its full fruition.

In actuality, though, perhaps only the truly happy can help other people learn how to live.

“My way” may be gratitude.  From my favorite biblical passage as a child:  “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and unto His courts with praise.”  God doesn’t need my praise, but I do:  I need to acknowledge that all this goodness doesn’t originate with my all-too-often ego-oriented self.  Indeed, the ego fades in the presence of thankfulness.

I’ve come to feel that it has been better to have the good years follow the lean.  Now I know how to appreciate these blessed “happy dreams” that the Holy Spirit weaves.

A Course in Miracles says, “There is no need to learn through pain.”  My prayer for the last several years:  not to learn through pain!  But somehow I had overlooked that promise in my favorite book.

The Course means that to follow the Holy Spirit is to be absolved of pain because His gui- dance knows all the outcomes that any given action would bring and He chooses the painless route.

Does this mean that we will know no suffering?  That depends entirely upon how close a walk with the Spirit one can endure.  It takes a particular kind of courage to give up one’s own, im-perfect, judgment and follow guidance that may be impossible to scrutinize.  We have to be very flexible, able and willing to change directions at an instant’s notice.  Most of us can’t do this con-sistently.  But when we do, we are blessed with joyful living, able to overlook pain entirely.
Overlooking is, of course, not the same as never experiencing.  But from my life I know that the pain lessens dramatically when one is following the footprints of guidance.

A Course in Miracles says, “Anything in this world that you believe is good and valuable and worth striving for can hurt you, and will do so.  Not because it has the power to hurt, but just because you have denied it is but an illusion, and made it real.”

Constantly I am pulled back to realize that better living comes with doing less rather than more:  “My bronchitis slowed me down and showed me that more happiness may be in relaxing, doing less, slowing down to read, etc.”

One of the affirmations of the Course reads, “Above all else I want to see.”  This very strong statement is then elucidated twice more:  “Vision has no cost to anyone.”  “It can only bless.”

Having true vision would mean, like the female character in the movie, “The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” that I had “gotten the madness out.”  (The Course says that this world is actually a place of madness–madness borne of guilt.)  Sometimes I think I really want to be well and think rightly so I can be of real help to others—even more than I want it for myself alone.

This sounds laudatory, but is it really evidence of ambiguity about the goal?  Is there still attraction in me for the forbidden, the “sin”?  If so, I need to see “sin” as only a mistake, and every-one wants mistakes rectified.  Maybe the best thing that I can do in this life is get my act together–get “well” in a karmic sense.

Several years ago, in one of my more self-centered moments, I listed nine answers to the question, “What do I really want?”  I am chagrined to notice now that there is nothing directly said about love and service to others, except for my husband (who heads the list).

But the Holy Spirit takes us where we are and leads us as best He can, given our blindness.  Just as Maslow said that safety must precede satisfaction of higher goals, maybe I needed these nine prayers answered before I could turn outward.  And they have been answered–all nine–gloriously:

What do I really want?  This is my list:  (1) love and companionship with David; (2) peace of mind and tranquility; (3) satisfying daily work; (4) contentment, happiness, and gentle joy; (5)  good emotional and physical health; (6) a “centering” that leads me to the goals of A Course in Miracles; (7) satisfaction in the present; (8) strength to cope with any and all changes in my
life; and (9) good sense of style and attractiveness.

I have been in a bad mood because I have been stressed out.  I never get mad unless I am stressed.  Since I know this about myself, I ought to reduce stress so that anger just doesn’t happen.  After all, learning how to live in the “real world” is what we are here for.

Basically, I think I know enough from the Course to live well (i.e., appropriately).  Now I just need to put its great principles into practice.

On how to live peaceably:  “I realized recently that maybe I am trying too hard in regard to living by the Course.  My best teaching and my best speeches have come when I am at ease, relax-ed, and poised.  Isn’t it quite likely that living well demands (i.e., requires, asks) the same?”

I think the Course, at its heart, is only structuring the dream so that we can awaken.  “Salvation can be thought of as a game that happy children play.”

A favorite biblical quotation:  “Ask, and you will be given what you ask for.  Seek, and you will find.  Knock, and the door will be opened.”

I accepted that Scripture as a promise years ago.  Now I am deeply aware that Jesus’ words are true.  But my questions have found answers only in a gradual unfolding.  As Catherine Marshall says, “Waiting works.  It is a joining of man and God to achieve an end, and the end is always a form of the Easter story.”

From my journal, the obvious but maybe not so obvious:  “The Holy Spirit is very good at working out everything so that it is a win-win for everybody.”

Joseph Campbell’s dictum, “Follow your bliss,” is not unlike the New Age thought of Ruth Montgomery’s “Walk-Ins”:  “Go with the flow.”

There are very few times that one must go through life (as Hugh Prather describes) “being pulled through it kicking and screaming,” and for many that better way to live is delineated in A Course in Miracles.  The key point, forgiveness of others, sets aright one’s relationships and leads one to Michael Drury’s dictum, a “settled good will toward humanity.”

Following the Holy Spirit’s direction, as advocated in the Course, creates the flow described by Montgomery and leads inexorably to a proliferation of life possibilities, unique and perfect for oneself, that Campbell believes will ensue from following one’s bliss.

The ideas shift and turn with each writer, befitting his or her unique inspiration, but the process of learning how to live well is a universal experience.

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